MSI inspect and unpack

MSI files aren't just a complicated ZIP format -- they are also an installation tool and (apparently) a full-fledged SQL database.

So it's great to find MSI Unpacker, a tool that easily allows inspection of (a) what an MSI file would actually change about a system and (b) easily extract files from the MSI package.

FileMaker

I tend to have a love/hate relationship with FileMaker Pro. It certainly has a lower learning curve than a program like Access or using a full-blown relational database with SQL query commands etc.

While that ease of use often generates poorly-thought out databases, and I've had some nightmare experiences with FileMaker developers who can dink up a web-based system but don't really understand the logistics of deploying that to multiple sites over dial-up internet speeds (me? bitter? :) -- when I discovered that XML access has b

Test site availability from around the globe

Ever wanted to test whether a website is down everywhere, or if it's "just you"?

Then the Dotcom-Monitor [http://www.dotcom-monitor.com/task_hot_test.asp?id=1] is for you!

EDIT: For some bizarre reason, Google thinks that this link isn't "organic" enough and despite being a legit referral, has been flagged as spammy! The webmasters of Dotcom Monitor have requested that the link be removed. Hence the URL is now just in plain text, please copy and paste to access the site. Sorry for the inconvenience

Metadata is...

All too often, people refer to metadata as "data about data". But while this literal definition is occasionally useful, the line between data and metadata gets blurred too often.

For example, take an object catalogued by a museum.

  • Is its height and width... data or metadata?
  • Is its barcode... data or metadata?
  • Is the donor of the object... data or metadata?

Karen Coyle has a beautiful definition of metadata (you should read the whole article, it's really good):

    What is metadata?
     

    Metadata is ...

      constructed... (Metadata is wholly artificial, created by human beings.)
      for a purpose... (There is no universal metadata. For metadata to be useful it has to serve a purpose.)
      to facilitate an activity. (There's something that you do with metadata)

JoCaml: concurrent programming

Another programming language I hear you say?

Well, yes. But as Tim Bray rightly points out, the way of the future will be distributed and parallel computing over lots of CPUs. Hence any way of easily splitting a big job into lots of small jobs is A Good Thing (TM).

Enter JoCaml. Currently leading the board in terms of speed for the Wide Finder project, its syntax is a little obscure, but at a quick glance appears more readable than Erlang's.

Unifying Feeds

As many are aware the history of incompatible RSS formats is a running joke, even given the chequered history of most Web standards.

Some ramifications are still being felt today.

But I'm surprised that there's no easy library which can convert one format to the other -- or

Life in User Land

Ever since I've used a computer, I've had Administrator rights on the computers I've worked on. Even at work, I've had full rights because my jobs involving computer support of some kind or another have required it!

Now, I'm in User Land. And (gasp) a locked down environment. What, no command line? No access to network properties? No rights to install programs? Worse still, no access to scripting languages?

Hmm.

Atom + RSS feed readers & servers

Given the explosion of interesting in feed technologies such as RSS and now particularly Atom, I find it slightly bewildering that it's so hard to find a web-based aggregator which works well inside a corporate firewall.

Why? Well, quite simply, I think that employees are increasingly demanding what amounts to pub/sub technologies to exchange information and status amongst themselves.

There are some signs of life, e.g.

IBM Mashup Startup Kit (complex, but looks very powerful)
SimplePie (a PHP library)

12manage

They have re-organised the page on me, but I'm pretty sure that 12manage is the same web site that I've found, lost, found, lost and finally found again.

Essentially, it's a resource listing just about every management tool, technique, fad, and jargon under the sun. So if you've ever wanted to learn more about Business Process Re-engineering or Six Sigma, this is the place to start.

Protégé - an ontology builder

It's funny how you can think you pretty much know all the top-tier Open Source applications that are available ... and then you find a program like Protégé.

An open-source (MPL) ontology builder and knowledge base engine, the program is clean, responsive and easy to use. It's Java-based, which all too often is a synonym for "slow and clunky" or "really ugly" but in this case, just download the installer (even a standalone JAR installer worked first time on Windows) and it's up and running in 2 minutes.

The obvious comparison in terms of quality (again, thinking of Java programs here) is FreeMind, a thoroughly capable mind-mapping software program.

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